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Last week I asked the question “Are your negative emotions leaving you feeling numb, stuck, afraid, or overwhelmed?” I promised that this week we would talk about conquering that pain. Let’s look at the three parts of conquering the pain. First, we need to accept the need to do all the hard work of processing the pain. Second, we should understand how God sees our struggles. Lastly, we will talk about the steps to conquering the pain.
Why not just ignore the pain; push the emotions into a place where I don’t have to think about or feel them? Seems like the easy way out doesn’t it? Except there will be a time when something triggers that emotion. A familiar sight, smell, sound, or even something as simple as a TV commercial will bring the painful emotion back to the surface. Processing negative emotions is a means of understanding these emotions, helping us to deal with the pain and to insure that the pain does not prevent us from experiencing the good things in life.
Accepting that you need to work through your pain starts with accepting that your emotions, thoughts, and experiences are real and significant. When a friend is going through hard times, we are taught to be empathic and to acknowledge a friend’s pain. Are you empathic with yourself? To process negative emotions, you must be able to acknowledge these feelings.
How do you think God sees you? God says He loves you; He is for you, not against you. With that in mind, how do you think He sees your pain and how does He want you to deal with your pain? We are human and not perfect. Oftentimes we feel shame, failure, and guilt for admitting we have struggles. We think God will not accept our failures. Yet God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. God as our father wants us, his children, to come to him for help. God is also a good teacher and does not expect us to just “get over things” without proper healing and teaching.
Ok, so how do we move forward and deal with our negative emotions?
First, listen to yourself. Our emotions are a way of pointing to what is troubling us. Anger, depression, fear, or other negative emotions are a way of knowing something is wrong. Take a break and look at your emotions. Understand what you are feeling. Are you afraid, scared that harm is going to come to you, feeling belittled?
Second, draw a picture of your emotions. David, a man after God’s own heart, in Psalm 42, declares he feels rejected, abandoned, distressed, and depressed. David expresses a full range of emotions. He expresses fear, loneliness, as well as anger. Give yourself permission to talk to yourself and to God about your feeling.
The third step in processing pain requires you to dig deep to evaluate your emotions. You need to allow some passage of time before you start the evaluation process. This process involves asking questions that will be hard to answer at first. Ask: Why is this coming up now? What might this mean? What triggered this feeling? How am I appraising this situation? Are there any lies I believe? Asking questions gives you the opportunity to learn from your experiences, gain valuable self-insight, and learn life strategies.
When you explore your emotions, you need to make sure that you are in a safe place and able to express them in safe ways such as through journaling, art, movement, music, prayer, etc. In cases of raw unexplored deep emotional trauma, you should avoid isolation. Talking with a trusted friend, family member, or Christian counselor is especially important in the beginning stages of healing. God is so powerful He can use even the worst situations as stepping-stones to a greater future.
You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people. Genesis 50:20
Cheryl Gowin, and Dennis Gowin, Hope for Tomorrow Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.